Monday, December 14, 2009

Shopping list

It's the holiday season (the holiday season), and some people are already done with their Christmas shopping. Those people are obviously killjoys and should be forced to stay home and babysit the children of the people who wait until the last minute to hit the malls.

I suppose I could be one of those people. I mean, it's not like my recipient list changes yearly, or someone changes the rules on what we can and cannot buy. Theoretically, I could be done Christmas shopping in July, if I were one of those (cough cough fun suckers) organized people. But what fun would that be? What's Christmas without rushing through the stores while on your cell phone, asking your sister-in-law's nearly deaf grandmother if she knows what size your niece is wearing these days. How can it be the holiday season if you're not frantically looking through the sweaters, seeking the one size that's always missing? How incomplete would the holiday be without a spousal argument in the middle of the mall because neither of you can figure out what to really get his mother, who has enough things to outfit a small third world nation? (For the record, the abovementioned scenarios are not theoretical.)

For me, holiday shopping starts in September, when I tell the kids to "put it on your Christmas list." See a toy you like? Make a list. Need designer shoes? Deal with the Kohl's brand and put the pricey ones on your list. Kids don't like this answer, but it's served many a mom during the fall months. A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, I begin to form gift lists in my head. That means I look at sale papers and think, "Hmm, that would be a nice gift for Danielle." Then I promptly forget about it. Later on, I wonder how I could possibly forget such a great idea, because I remember it was a great gift, I just can't remember what the heck it was. As Thanksgiving draws near, I briefly think about hitting the Black Friday sales. Then I decide to avoid the (cough cough insane cough) Black Friday shoppers and sleep in.

Suddenly, it's December, and the only thing I've bought is a fleece vest for my dad, because we buy him a fleece vest every year. Now it's time to hit the internet. I might Google some ideas, such as "What is the best brand of socks for people who are so anal about their socks that they label them, in order to keep them in pairs?" Google spits out some answers, and I look them over. If one of the answers shows up on Amazon, I might even add it to my wish list. As a rule, I don't buy from merchants I don't know, because I live in fear of a gift that cannot be returned. Ditto on Ebay. Great deals, sure. But what if someone doesn't like their gift? To the best of my knowledge, Ebay doesn't take returns.

Then it's time to hit the mall. If I'm smart, I hit the mall during the day, when it's not so busy. Armed with coupons from Sunday's ads, I attack the stores. Let's see, I have an Aeropostale coupon for $10 any $50 purchase, so let's go to Aeropostale. Hmm, I can't remember if Emily's wearing a S or a M these days, and Becca insists she's still an XS, but I think she's probably a S. Let's wait on Aeropostale until I can drag the girls out and make them try on a few things. I meander through the mall, talking to nobody on my cell phone so that the kiosk people don't try to beckon me over to their wares. (I once paid something like $70 for a scented pillow thingie sold by an extremely cute and flirtatious salesman with a great accent.) Dad said he wanted a sweater. But my brother mentioned something he might want to go halves on for Dad. Granted, brother hasn't responded to the email yet, but I'd better hold off on the sweater. Ooh, maybe the nieces would like some of this body spray. I should buy some. No, wait, maybe they already have this body spray. Maybe they have the body spray and hate it. Maybe their mother doesn't want them to wear body spray. Better wait on that. I can't leave the mall empty handed, so I buy myself some expensive shampoo at the JCPenney salon using the coupon from Sunday's paper. Yay me.

As the days draw near, I begin to feel a wee bit of panic. Should I go ahead and move things from my wish list to my cart at Amazon? If I buy the nieces the body spray, what if I find something they want more? Why can't I find the one Transformer that my nephew asked for? I can't risk buying him a different one, because he has an extensive collection, and I'd probably buy him something he already has. My husband said he wants an air compressor. Does he really need an air compressor? Can't we rent an air compressor?

Then the e-mails start coming in. "THREE MORE DAYS OF FREE SHIPPING IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!!" OK, if I don't do something soon, I'm going to end up at Walgreen's on Christmas Eve, buying Chia Pets for my nearest and dearest. Finally, about two weeks before Christmas, I start to buy. I buy the blouse that is almost like the one I liked in November, but that one is long gone. I buy a bunch of little gifts to complement the expensive gifts for the kids, and wind up spending at least twice my budget. I check out the "gift book" table at Borders, because it's bound to have something my brother can read in the bathroom. By the Sunday before Christmas, I'm nearly done. On Monday, I'm finished. On Tuesday, I'm buying "just a few more things." I've been burned before, when I was up Christmas Eve looking for last minute deals online, because I was convinced we hadn't bought enough for my in-laws. On Wednesday, I'm swearing that I'm done, really, except for the one little thing I really want to get the kids. On Christmas Eve, I'm running to Walgreen's because I just counted the kids' presents and they seem uneven. Christmas Eve. Finally, it's Christmas morning, and I can enjoy the lights and the carols that have been playing for the last two months. Then I wonder where the season went.

Once again, I'll say that next year will be different. I'll plan better and do the shopping by Thanksgiving, so I can spend the season baking cookies and listening to Christmas carols without guilt. Who am I kidding? Chances are, you'll find me at Walgreen's on Christmas Eve. I'll be in the Chia Pet aisle.